Advent: What Lies Ahead

Advent: What Lies Ahead

In our culture’s mad rush to start the Christmas season, I am left feeling a bit Scrooge-like.  I like Advent.  The anticipation that gradually builds as candle after candle are lit on the Advent wreath adds to the beauty of Christmas when it finally arrives.  If we jump headlong into Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I believe we miss part of the joy of the season.  Waiting has a sweet longing to it and I want that sweetness for as long as I can have it.

As a child, I remember the eagerness as I would watch the presents beneath the tree grow as time passed.  My younger sister and I would check to find the ones with our names and then try to analyze what was inside.  It was tempting to tear the wrapping off, but we didn’t.  The soft, foldable presents were obviously clothes.  Yet the ones in boxes?  Those were unidentifiable.  We would give them a light shake and then simply wonder about what lay nestled inside for us to discover.  The waiting was half the fun.  Even if I wanted to figure out what the present was before Christmas (my competitive nature desired to win), I also wanted to be surprised.

I won’t argue that I’m extremely patient, however I appreciate waiting for something good.  When I get my mail, I am excited if I find a letter from a friend or a package that I ordered.  Yet I generally open the less fun things first, allowing the excitement and longing for the most desired thing to build.  After trick-or-treating at Halloween when I was a kid, I tried to eat my least favorite candies first, saving the best for last.  Even now, I often find myself saving a bite of the best part of the meal for the end, as if to end the meal on a good note.  Waiting doesn’t change the contents of the letter or the taste of the food, but it seems to add a bit of sweetness as I anticipate what is to come. Continue reading “Advent: What Lies Ahead”

To Write

To Write

I’ve wanted to write a book for years.  When I was in first grade, I wrote a short story for a contest and I won.  Several years ago, I went back and read the story, expecting it to be mildly phenomenal.  Instead, I was surprised that it wasn’t that good at all.  I basically wrote a story about a typical day in my life, some of it was true and some of it was embellished.  In eighth grade, my English teacher really complimented my writing and encouraged me to start submitting articles for the town paper.  Apparently, there was space to fill, since the next couple editors of the paper allowed me to submit articles periodically for the next few years.

Over the years, I have wondered what the Lord desired to do with this desire of mine to write.  This blog started mostly as a way for me to process the new world of teaching high school students.  Now it is a place where I reflect and share on a number of different thoughts and feelings that come up.  Yet, still, I find a longing to write a book.

When I was younger, I assumed it would be a fictional novel.  Since I lived on a steady diet of novels, I figured my love for them would bring about writing one of them.  As time has passed, I’ve found myself wanting to write something nonfiction, but unable to quite put my finger on what it is I want to write.

This indecision is something that is familiar in my life.  I need only glance around my room to see partially finished books, half-made plans, and a to-do list that goes back months.  My desire to leap forward is tempered by a desire to not fail, to do the right thing at the right moment always.  Yet I read the books or blogs that other people have written and while I enjoy them, I cannot help but think, I could write something like that. Continue reading “To Write”

The Deepest Longing of Our Hearts

The Deepest Longing of Our Hearts

“I guess I don’t like the argument from desire because I’ve never felt a desire for something that can’t be satisfied on earth.”

As a melancholic who has nearly always longed for something beyond this world, I was a bit surprised by this admission.  My class was reviewing arguments for God’s existence and as we went over each one, I would ask a few students to share if they liked or disliked the argument.  Then they needed to voice why, perhaps the most difficult part of it all for them.

I wanted them to reflect on the arguments and see which ones they found personally compelling.  Each person is different and so I wasn’t too concerned if they liked all of the arguments or not.  Yet it is always interesting to me which ones they dislike and why.  Some other students voiced a dislike for the desire argument, but the declaration that they had never desired something beyond this world seemed foreign to me.

Melancholic that I am, I have always longed for perfection.  Ever since high school and college, that has translated into a longing for Heaven.  So as my students were voicing that they have never experienced this unfulfilled desire for something beyond this world, I was left wondering why they don’t have a longing that I never remember being without.

In my first year of teaching, I prayed frequently for death.  Not in a morbid way, but in a longing-for-home-and-yet-knowing-everything-around-me-is-temporary way.  The more I battled with my students over Church teaching, the more I wanted to be in a place of eternal Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.  Yet that was far from the first time that I had felt an unfulfilled desire.  Why are my students not experiencing this also? Continue reading “The Deepest Longing of Our Hearts”

Duc in Altum: Classroom Missionary

I’ve spent the last two months deciding if I would continue teaching next year.  There were pros and cons on both sides and I couldn’t tell which side was weightier.  Even though my mother insisted, repeatedly, that I should sit down and make a pros and cons list, doing so didn’t seem to really help.  The benefits and drawbacks of either decision seemed incapable of being captured in words to jot on one side of a t-chart.  I couldn’t go with my gut because it, too, was conflicted.  In the end, I chose to stay and while I’m still uncertain if that was the correct decision, it was a decision and I finally made it.  A part of me felt sadness to pass up a great service opportunity and another part feels concern that next year I will be climbing the walls of my classroom, wondering what momentary weakness caused me to sign another year of my life away.  Despite these concerns, I am beginning to make plans about what this next year of life will look like.  As a teacher, life stills comes about on a yearly schedule, broken neatly into semesters with lovely summer and winter breaks.

Last semester I was growing more and more convinced that I would love to not teach next year.  It wasn’t one thing in particular, but it was a bunch of things all wrapped up together.  Yet after applying for and being offered (even if only temporarily) another job, the joys of teaching became clearer to me.  The things that I would miss stood out in my mind and I didn’t even want to think of telling my department head that I would be leaving or cleaning out my classroom.  Yet I didn’t want to stay just because I didn’t want to do those things.

As frustrating and foolish as students can be at times, they can also be hilarious, witty, deep, encouraging, and beautiful souls.  Yes, they complain, test my patience, seem incapable of following simple directions, make me question my own sanity, and relentlessly insist on moving the far row of desks next to the wall so they have a backrest.  Yet at times we laugh together, we can reach a beautiful depth at times, we develop a relationship that is unlike any other relationship I have formed before–one of student and teacher.  Over the past three years I’ve grown more comfortable with my students.  Today I gave a test to my seniors and after they were finished, I couldn’t help but look at them and feel pleased.  We aren’t best friends, but it is my class and we do have a unique dynamic.

I don’t know how long I will teach for and how long I want to teach for depends on the day.  In the midst of my crisis (the I-have-only-two-days-to-know-if-I-am-going-to-sign-my-contract-and-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing crisis), I called my sister.  She asked me questions that I didn’t know how to answer about my personal desires and feeling peace.

“Answer this as quickly as you think of an answer,” my sister told me.  “If you could do anything, what would you do or be?”
“A missionary.”

Then she read me something.  At first, I wasn’t quite certain what she was reading me.  After a little while, I realized she was reading me one of my very first blog entries.  “Young,” first-year teacher Trish was writing about how she was a missionary of the classroom and how even as she longed for greater missions, she was called to be a teacher and minister in the seeming mundane aspects of life.  And that young teacher inspired me.  As my sister read my writing, I felt inspired to truly take up the mission of being a teacher and to live it with a radical zeal that I had forgotten.  At some point I had begun to resign myself to having a job rather than being a missionary.

So even in the midst of uncertainty, I am starting to look forward to another school year (of course, after my (I believe) well-deserved summer break) to be a missionary in a high school classroom.  Because Christ instructed us to put out into the deep and I intend to cast my nets into the high school ocean.  Because the harvest is abundant and the laborers are few.  Because the Church needs the youth.  Because Jesus says there is a millstone with my name on it if I fail to bring the little ones to Him.  Because, for some unknown reason in God’s inscrutable Will, I am called to teach.